LeadingAge, VNAA and ElevatingHome Pursue Affiliation

Long-term care association LeadingAge — behind only AARP and, perhaps, a handful of other organizations when it comes to tackling aging issues in the United States — may soon become an even bigger player in the home-based care arena.

Washington, D.C.-based LeadingAge unveiled plans in February to join forces with the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) and ElevatingHome — a VNAA offshoot organization formed in April 2017 — in an “intent to affiliate.”

For LeadingAge, the move strategically adds more clinical expertise to its toolbag while broadening its for-profit in-home care provider appeal, VNAA Board Chair Kate Rolf told Home Health Care News. For VNAA and ElevatingHome, she said, the affiliation opens the door to further educational, research and advocacy resources for their membership base.

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Rolf also serves as a board member for both ElevatingHome and LeadingAge. She is also the CEO and president of Nascentia Health, a home-focused health system based in New York.

“LeadingAge, VNAA and ElevatingHome’s partnership is a strategic opportunity for our organizations to bring together VNAA and ElevatingHome’s clinical practice expertise with LeadingAge’s focus on forward-thinking initiatives around critical issues impacting providers and the most vulnerable populations that we all serve today and into the future,” Rolf said. “The affiliation with LeadingAge is a step toward establishing high-quality home-based care as an essential component of a patient-centered health care system.”

In addition to aligning the three mission-driven organizations, the intent to affiliate can also be seen as a way to consolidate advocacy efforts that some believe have become splintered over the past decade.

Besides LeadingAge, VNAA and ElevatingHome, today’s list of national home-based care advocates includes the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, the Partnership for Medication Home-Based Care and others. They’re joined by dozens of state-level advocates groups and associations as well.

“I think the playing field becoming crowded is one way to look at it,” Steve Fleming, board chair for LeadingAge, told HHCN. “A playing field that’s more fragmented is another way of looking at it, which is really not good for our advocacy efforts.”

Fleming is also the president and CEO of The Well-Spring Group, a multi-model aging services provider based in North Carolina.

Coming together

While ElevatingHome is a relatively new organization, VNAA and LeadingAge have been around for years, though in slightly different forms.

The history of Alexandria, Virginia-based VNAA dates back to the 1880s in the northwestern U.S., where a group of nurses provided free care to the sickest and poorest populations who would have otherwise not had access to care. The formal VNAA organization was officially established in 1983 in Denver.

Previously known as the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA), LeadingAge can trace its roots back to 1961, when a group of aging services nonprofits came together to form a new association. AAHSA members ultimately voted to rebrand as LeadingAge in July 2010.

“LeadingAge is a trusted voice for aging, and joining forces enables us to bring our collective work to a much broader network of service providers and individuals helping patients of all ages remain at home and reduce hospitalizations,” Rolf said. “Our organizations have shared visions, similar missions and deep commitment to service.”

In terms of sheer size and firepower, there aren’t too many aging-oriented advocacy organizations bigger than LeadingAge, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Its total revenue for the fiscal year ending September 2016 was nearly $21.1 million, according to its most recent publicly available IRS Form 990. The primary source of that revenue was program services, followed by contributions.

Just a few of the several bills that LeadingAge lobbied on in 2018 include the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2017, the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2017 and the Home Health Documentation and Program Improvement Act of 2017, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

ElevatingHome and VNAA will become part of LeadingAge pending a member vote, as required by the organizations’ bylaws.

If the intent to affiliate is approved, the three groups will share resources but continue to function independently at first, Rolf said.

“How the affiliation plays out structurally will ultimately be up to the boards of all the organizations and then, of course, the final vote of VNAA and ElevatingHome members,” she said. “We’re confident that the more our members learn about and understand the benefits of affiliating with LeadingAge, they will fully support this opportunity.”

LeadingAge has more than 6,000 overall members across the long-term care sector, according to the organization. VNAA and ElevatingHome’s membership is around 115 combined.

“Any time you can add to your base, it’s going to strengthen the walls of the organization,” Fleming said. “I don’t think this changes anything for us … but it does allow us to serve a more diverse membership.”

Fleming estimated that roughly three-quarters of LeadingAge members are already offering some form of home care, sometimes informally at life plan communities or CCRCs as a concierge-type service.

“Many of our members have branched out and have their own home health and home care agencies,” he said.

A rocky road

To expand its heavy not-for-profit membership base, VNAA created ElevatingHome, in part, as a way to bring in more stakeholders across the home-based care space, including for-profit organizations.

But the road for the spinoff organizations has been fairly rocky in its roughly two years of existence.

Tracy Moorhead became president and CEO of VNAA in 2013, then served in the roles for ElevatingHome when it was launched in April 2017. A year later, Moorhead abruptly announced she was resigning.

“Tracey made her own decision to resign,” Danielle Pierotti, former vice president of quality and research for ElevatingHome, previously told Home Health Care News. “ElevatingHome and VNAA is not deviating from its plan. We are committed.”

Pierotti now serves as the organization’s acting president and CEO.

Realigning under the LeadingAge’s umbrella just under a year after Moorhead’s resignation adds yet another twist to ElevatingHome’s story.

“VNAA and ElevatingHome boards, we contemplated the organization’s future when Tracy left,” Rolf said. “We firmly believe that collaboration with other home- and community-centered providers is the key to the future of home health care, which made LeadingAge an excellent partner for us to affiliate with.”

As such, the intent to affiliate should not be interpreted as a means of keeping ElevatingHome afloat, according to Fleming.

“I can’t speak for the VNAA board, but I don’t think it was done with the intention of providing underpinning of ElevatingHome,” he said. “I think it just solidifies ElevatingHome’s platform.”

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